“I would rather be anywhere else in the world than here.”
This was my contribution to the opening round of a week’s clown and voice training. I’ve been clowning for years and love the work, that wasn’t the problem.
It was the prospect of singing in public, solo and a capella at that! To be exposed in this way is something I have dreaded since the age of 8 when the music teacher at school told me I was tone deaf and marched me in full view from the back row of the class (drums and cymbals) to the front row (triangles).
Despite that childhood humiliation and the consequent lifelong belief that I couldn’t sing, I’d come with Hedda to the Roy Hart Centre, Château de Malérargues, in Cévennes, where noted voice teacher David Goldsworthy would be let loose on my vocal cords.
On the very first afternoon, he invited each member of the 11 strong group to come up to the piano in turn to make sounds (not singing, he insisted). Every intervention seemed to be exquisitely and individually tailored to the needs of each participant: building confidence, stretching, loosening, extending their timbre and range.
He left me until last. I thought I might have got away with it, but no chance. “Woo-hoo,” I wailed. “Woo-hoo-oo.” He offered suggestions using his own voice for me to follow; he copied my sounds; he found corresponding notes on the piano so that the accompaniment stayed in tune with me. I literally couldn’t go wrong. Whatever I did sounded like music.
He encouraged me to move and a sort of wild rhythm emerged. “Play air guitar,” he said. “Be a rock star.” I gave it my best shot and as the session drew to a close, the rest of the group joined me ‘on stage’, dancing and adding their voices to the ‘song.’ They were smiling, laughing and clapping me on the back. When it ended I was in tears, moved by the utterly unknown experience of the sound of my voice (as opposed to my words) giving pleasure to people.
All week, interspersed between clowning improvisations, we continued to explore our voices and to sing, together and alone. In the finale, I serenaded Hedda with a rendition of You are my sunshine which actually sounded like I meant it (which I did).
I’m sure I’ll be returning to the Roy Hart Centre before too long and this time I won’t be dreading it. In the meantime, I realise that I’ve learned something important about this kind of learning that I have a hunch might also be useful in other areas of life.
There’s a knack to this finding your inner clown
And it’s the same with finding your voice,
You can try all you like to learn how
But it’s never going to happen.
As soon as you think you know what you’re doing
It immediately becomes impossible.
The trick is simply to forget
That you can’t do it
And do it anyway.